Had a terrific meal with mixed but redeemed service at Banania last weekend. Here's what happened.
Went with two other women, one of whom has been there at least 7 times in the past 2 monthes and keeps bringing others there (and who is a part owner in another Brooklyn restaurant - so understands the business)
They were as ususual quite busy but seated us relatively quickly. THe host described the specials and left us to ponder. The heavily accented French waiter (who was snotty last time I was there with same friend plus my husband - all three of us are in the food biz) came to take our order. I told him that we knew which apps we wanted, so let's get that order in and we were still deciding on the main courses. He wasn't happy with that and said that didn't work well for the kitchen. I replied quietly, "but it does work for us", at which point he said, OK let's do that and I'll deal with the kitchen. I thanked him and promised we would decide quickly as not to screw up the timing (understanding the logistical situation).
Meanwhile, another waitress, who my friend had had before and said was a doll, came and took our main course order. She was terrific, helpful and very accomodating. I asked her if it was possible to switch a side dish (orzo with the lamb shank for potato frisbee) that came with an item. She said no problem, but she recommended trying it the way it was written and if I wasn't happy she'd bring me the potato frisbee right away. When the order came out, both the orzo and the frisbee were there - happy customer, attentive waiter - tip quotant just went up!
THe food was absolutely dead drop delicious. THe third person in our party lives in San Francisco and is an avid foodie and she was also impressed (both with food and prices but not service)
For apps we shared tuna tatar - impeccably fresh tiny cubes of raw tuna over a wonder salad - with strips of sweet red pickled ginger (hard item to find in New YOrk). THe other app was a baby spinach salad with fresh figs and manchego cheese. Both were perfect and generous.
For mains, I had lamb shank with some sort of au jus (I'll get back to the au jus), which came over orzo with frisee that was perfectly dressed in a tart vinaigrette and balanced it all. Delish. The SF foodie had the wild mushroom in filo (looked like a giant lumpia or spring roll) over braised leeks. Also quite delish. My Brooklyn friend had the salmon over the potato frisbee which was good and nothing to complain about, but in (MHO)not outstanding. The potato frisbee was yummy and a great bonus for me.
Frenchie passed our table, asked how things were and I requested more au jus for my lamb (I am a gravy freak). He repeats back to me in a questioning voice "au jus" and I say yes. Well, the au jus never comes, but I am enjoying the meal neverthe less and continue to eat and finish the dish. All of a sudden a plate of orzo appears and he says, sorry it took so long, but they cook it from stratch. The table is now ready to be cleared. I say, no problem, but I asked for au jus, anyway I am finished now. He asks me what au jus is. I profess to him (to be kind and tactful) that my French pronunciation is lousy, but I was led to believe that even in America, au jus, means gravy or meat juice. Especially in kitchens - we get into a diplomatic fight over this - He says he's worked in America for 15 years in French Chinese and English kitchens and never heard this. He thought I said orzo (tho he repeated back au jus) I reply equally as snottily, well I've worked in kitchens in America for the last 20 years, and I was taught that au jus means reduced meat juices to make "gravy" but of course, I probably prononuced it wrong (remember the tactful approach). Any way, he leaves and my friends tell me to let it go, and not let his "french attitude" spoil an otherwise wonderful meal. They are right of course. but of course I have to bitch for a few minutes.
He then swings by the table again and says, when we are ready to order dessert, it is on him. WHen he comes back to take the dessert order he gives his version of any apology (which I admire him for because it obviously goes against his basic personality) which is he checked with Dan (the chef/owner) who tells him, yes, au jus (which is listed on their menu) does indeed mean gravy in French english kitchens. He then proceeds to tell me that he was not expecting me to speak French, so he wasn't listening that way and misunderstood me. OK apology excepted.
Meanwhile on to dessert. Last time we ate there we didn't order desserts because they sounded too pedistrian. Never judge a book by its cover.
Had the key lime tart which was outstanding. A delicate thin individual tart which appeared to have just been piped with a thin key lime "mousse" -smooth, cremy, tart and sweet and somewhat runny - perfect against the not too sweet crisp tart shell. Creme brulee was also delish as was the tart tartin (apple). Thank you Frenchie for the great desserts, it did make up for the lousy french attitude. And we did leave a very nice tip in appreciation for the service of all three waitstaff and the smiling and lovely busboy.
So all in all it was a wonderful evening and we each dropped about $30 (we only had one glass of wine and two cappucinos on the table - so that kept the cost down some what. For the level of food quality and quantity, that was a bargain to me.